Flower power to improve women's lives
Ms Annie Cheong runs her own flower studio in Chinatown under a block of rental flats at Chin Swee Road. It is also where the 28-year-old used to volunteer when she was a social worker.
Ms Cheong used to work in a voluntary welfare organisation dealing with family violence before choosing to become a social entrepreneur to give back to society in a different way.
She told The New Paper: "I like the whole idea of how social work and social enterprise can really mix together."
Her business, Hello Flowers, hires women on low incomes on an ad-hoc basis to help with floral arrangements.
Becoming a florist-with-a-cause was something Ms Cheong fell into.
She already had an interest in floral arrangements and found respite in them. She was even taking personal orders for bouquets.
The leap came about thanks to a programme a social worker friend ran, which trains low-income women in floral arrangement.
"The ladies at the social service centre learnt how to create the arrangements but they weren't employed anywhere," said Ms Cheong.
Hello Flowers solved this problem. Today, Ms Cheong has a permanent part-timer and four other women who take turns to help out at the studio.
As these women are also mothers, Ms Cheong tries to match their children with programmes that will benefit them.
For the first-time businesswoman, balancing the social side with the commercial can still be a struggle.
"Sometimes, when you want to earn more money, you may end up neglecting certain social parts of it," she said.
There are responsibilities like business administration and client management that her part-time staff cannot do.
For those aspects, it is a one-woman show for Ms Cheong, who is looking at turning Hello Flowers into a sustainable outfit.
When asked if her current job is any less meaningful than being a social worker, Ms Cheong, who still volunteers in Chinatown, was quick to disagree.
“It’s very fulfilling. Definitely, I think it can be a new form of social work.”